SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – San Francisco Superior Court announced Tuesday it is backing off a plan to require the use of Lexis Nexis’ electronic filing system to file documents in the court’s most important cases. A number of law firms and individuals had made public comments criticizing the plan.
The court’s presiding judge decided to pull back the proposed rule in order to further consider the public comments and consider additional bids for e-filing, according to a press release from the court’s chief executive officer.
The proposed rule called for mandatory electronic filing through publisher Lexis Nexis — a division of the Anglo-Dutch publishing conglomerate Reed Elsevier — in complex cases, generally the court’s most important litigation.
Courthouse News Service is one of the organizations that criticized the court’s plan, saying in a 46-page commentary that a single e-filing vendor system would monopolize access to public court records.
“Where an e-filing program is built around a single vendor that acts as an electronic publisher, as is the case with LexisNexis, the vendor enjoys a virtually insurmountable advantage over its competitors in the news media, both in terms of timing and cost,” wrote Courthouse News attorney Rachel Matteo-Boehm with Holme Roberts & Owen in San Francisco.
She also pointed out the proposed rule would have “adverse effects on the Court and the constituencies it serves, as it would mean the Court’s giving up direct control of the public court record and sacrificing a potential revenue stream while at the same time imposing considerable costs to the public.”
A number of the comments complained of high fees from the court’s chosen publisher. “Lexis Nexis is expensive and the system is convoluted,” said Maria Zappas, a litigation secretary with Farella Braun & Martell in San Francisco.
LexisNexis competitors, such as Novato-based court research company OneLegal LLC, called the proposed rule “bad policy” and urged the court to adopt a multi-vendor system or choose a single vendor “to accept documents from different electronic filing sources.”
Commentors also complained that the selection of LexisNexis violates public policy that favors competitive bidding for government contracts.
In pulling back the proposed rule, the court’s brief announcement said, “After receiving public comment from vendors and other interested parties, Presiding Judge James McBride has decided not to implement proposed rule 2.7, in order to provide the Court further time to consider the comments.”
“The Court contemplates issuing a request for information and for proposal,” said the announcement, “seeking bids from companies wishing to compete for the Court’s e-filing and e-service needs.”
The announcement was distributed to some media but not to all the authors of the comments. The public comments criticizing the proposed rule are also not available on the court’s website. The proposed rule change, however, is posted.